If you work on a ship and consider yourself a seaman, you may already know that you are covered by the Jones Act if you become injured. One of the costs you can seek payment for is maintenance, or the room and board you need while you’re off the ship, recovering. But this is more than just simple rent and food, and you may encounter attempts to limit what you can legally apply for. With the help of a qualified Jones Act lawyer, though, you’ll be in a better position to get reimbursed fairly.
Maintenance includes your actual costs for being in that home, everything from rent to utility bills. If you don’t already have a written budget detailing the costs, write one up now, and get copies of bills and receipts to prove what your costs are. If you live in a shared household where you pay for only part of the expenses, talk to your lawyer about how to best represent that, but in the meantime, continue to gather copies of bills and show what you contribute.
Union Maintenance Might Not Apply
Be aware of attempts by your employer to limit what you receive to much less than what you really need. You could see two specific tactics. One is that the company might claim it only has to pay out a small amount; this was standard years ago, but it’s not now. Nowadays, you are entitled to your actual costs (barring union agreements, which will be discussed shortly), and a Jones Act lawyer can help you get the correct compensation.
The other tactic is to claim that you are limited to a small amount by your union, if you are a union member, Many unions do have a set amount of maintenance in their contracts, but these contracts actually don’t apply everywhere in the country. Do not accept the union amount unless you know for sure that rule applies to your area. Again, a lawyer can help you sort that out.
Watch for Percent Problems
Your employer, if unscrupulous, may try to claim you’re not really a seaman and that you don’t spend enough time aboard the ship to qualify for Jones Act compensation. Because there is no set percentage of time that you have to be on the ship to qualify, it can be difficult to fight back against these claims without good record-keeping and the help of a lawyer. Any copies you have of timesheets and duty requirements will be of great help here, too.
The Jones Act helps you recover from maritime-work-related injury or illness, and you deserve to be paid properly per its rules. Contact a lawyer experienced in Jones Act cases as soon as you can.